Technology is often blamed for our lives being too complicated. It seems that the increased pace of life is hopelessly linked to the increase in technology. But is technology really to blame? Is it possible to simplify by using technology?
Most people who are serious about simplifying their lifestyle eschew technology. Thoreau wrote “I went out to the country so I could examine the simple things in life.” There is certainly something to be said for retreating to a quiet and peaceful place. But does technology really have to control us or can we control technology? For instance, I’m not sure I would want to abandon my washing machine so I could wash clothes by hand!
Perhaps in careful measure we can use technology to simplify our lives. I have compiled a brief list of ways we may be able to use technology to simplify our lives.
Convert your paper filing cabinet to a digital filing cabinet. Scanning and saving records digitally saves space and makes it easier to retrieve documents. I converted to a paperless, digital system two years ago and have never regretted it. I burn an archive disc periodically for backup storage and periodically delete archived files from my hard drive to minimize security risks. Modern desktop search utilities may be freely downloaded to speed searching for archived files as well.
Direct deposit and online billpay combine to make financial life easier. Paychecks can be directly deposited (even into multiple accounts) eliminating weekly trips to the bank. Most banks also offer online billpay so you can set up your monthly bill payments once and not have to write checks and mail bills each month. Computerized money management programs further automate tasks like balancing checkbooks and tracking budget expenses.
Consider upgrading your Internet connection from dial-up to broadband if you use the Internet a lot. The extra few dollars a month can be money well invested if you consider how much time you can save waiting for pages to load and files to download. You also avoid tying up your phone line for hours at a time.
Using Internet-based reference material and resources (accessed via your broadband connection) saves space in your house. This also saves money on upgrading and maintaining reference materials. We all remember shelves full of outdated encyclopedias.
Online shopping can save you money on your purchases, gas (always a big deal these days!) and travel time. What could be more convenient?
Upgrade your old film camera to a digital camera. I find this actually saves quite a bit of money in the long run. Pictures can be stored on your computer and archived on disk; pictures can also be loaded onto other electronic devices. Digital pictures mean fewer trips to the store for prints; some photo shops allow you to e-mail your digital photos in and pick them up later at your convenience.
Turn off your home phone and just use your mobile phone. Mobile carriers offer attractive packages now that are usually cheaper than maintaining two separate phones. I have no problem turning my mobile phone off when I want privacy.
Another option to traditional phones is to use a VoIP service. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services like Skype allow you to talk for free or nearly free to anyone in the world. Skype allows customers to have multiple phone numbers linked to one account. Since the phone numbers can be from around the world you can choose numbers that are local calls for your family and friends. Telephone handsets are available to connect to your computer so the VoIP phone works similarly to a traditional phone.
Portable music players allow all of your music (podcasts, etc.) to be carried with you. Save money on music by downloading only the songs you want to buy rather than the whole album. Despite Elton John going on record now as saying he always buys the whole album, most people only want one or two of the songs anyway. Who wants a box full of old cassettes or CDs that they can’t get rid of anyway?
Modern PDAs are powerful and full-featured. Many people find they can replace their laptop with a PDA. A decent PDA allows you to remain organized at home, work and while traveling which can make life a little easier.
Combining your mobile phone, portable music player and PDA into one device is also an option now. How is that for simplifying things?
Upgrade your website to a blog or CMS platform. WordPress saves me a lot of time and energy compared handcoding sites like I used to. The simplicity of updating the site, coupled with the community nature of comments, does wonders to improve your search engine ranking.The careful use of technology can help simplify life. I think maybe the trick is being intentional about what technology we really want to use to accomplish our end goals. Do you have any other suggestions? I would love to hear from you with suggestions on ways we can use technology to simplify our lives.
This article was developed in connection with a group writing project Darren Rowse sponsored over atProBlogger.net. Surf over and check out a ton of great how-to posts on blogs around the world.